February 17, 2019

Before Becoming a Rock Star

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Most of us had a job or two before settling in to our life’s work. Very often these jobs were not the most desirable ways to earn money. My least favorite job that I had growing up was cleaning oil burners. It is very hard for me to imagine a dirtier occupation. I think I am still trying to clean off some of the dirt that clings to my body like glue.

We sometimes think that rock stars somehow lead a charmed life and never did anything other than be on stage. Well, most rock stars also had a job prior to making it in the music business. Some had jobs that were pretty far removed from playing music.

It is very hard to imagine that John McVie was a tax inspector prior to becoming a member of first John Mayall’s blues Breakers and then Fleetwood Mac. He trained for the job and it was such a secure occupation that he had to be talked into giving up his “day job”.

Sting was also a tax officer...In addition he also worked as a bus conductor and in construction.

Elvis Costello also had a desk job. He was a data entry clerk for both a bank and for Elizabeth Arden.

Gene Simmons also had a hand in the women’s industry. He was an assistant editor for both Vogue and Glamour magazines.

Speaking of jobs in the women’s industry, Malcom Young worked at a bra factory. No, thankfully, he didn’t make them. He was a mechanic who fixed the sewing machines when they would break down.

Working in a toy factory might seem a lot safer and maybe even fun. That was not the case for Patti Smith. The details of her experiences at the factory are like a bad dream. She was always being bullied by the other female workers. They went so far as to force her head into an unflushed toilet. That job led her to write a song about her treatment.

Hopefully Jon Bon Jovi got better treatment from Santa. He worked as a Christmas decorations assembler. I’m sure he could give you a better understanding of what he job entailed than I can.

Van Morrison wrote a song about one of his jobs. It is called “Washing Windows”. He was one of those guys you see every once in a while cleaning windows while dangling on the side of a high rise buildings. Not something that I would want to do for certain.

Ozzy Osbourne also worked in construction and as a plumber trainee. Those jobs didn’t get him ready for his act so much as being a horn tuner in a car factory or a slaughter house worker. In the slaughter house he tore open cows.

David Bowie didn’t slaughter cows but he did work as a delivery boy for a butcher. He used the money he made to take lessons on the sax. He took those lessons from Ronnie Ross. Some eleven years later, when David produced “Walk on the Wild Side” for Lou Reed, he asked Ronnie to play that haunting sax on the song.

Ringo Starr was a high school dropout so the best job he could find was working for minimum wage as a delivery boy for the British Railways. Mostly he just delivered messages. Doesn’t sound like a
”hard days night”.

Keith Richards was different kind of boy. His parents were very much into tennis and got him a job as a ball boy. It is hard to imagine Keith ever moving quickly enough to get that job done.

Keith’s sidekick, Mick Jagger, worked as a porter at Bexley Psychiatric Hospital. His job was taking mental patients around the grounds. Maybe that is where he got some of the ideas for his songs. He also sold ice cream at the beach.

Digging graves might play on your mental wellbeing. That is what Rod Stewart did for London’s Highgate Cemetery. He also played pro soccer. See the story on rock stars who were athletes.

Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor of Queen had their own stall in the very popular Kensington Market in London. They were so successful selling art and fashion items that they kept it open even after making their first album.

Jack Black the actor/musician was a telemarketer before hitting fame and fortune. Somehow that seems to fit. I’ll bet he was good at talking people into buying.

Deborah Harry was a waitress and then a Playboy Bunny in New York City before she became the voice of Blonde. One would think that was much better preparation for her than some of the jobs listed above.

That’s just some of the jobs Rock stars had prior to hitting the big time. More probing could turn up many more. Perhaps even enough to be able to write a part two.


  • Comment Link Lucas Rogers Monday, June 29, 2020 posted by Lucas Rogers

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  • Comment Link Otto Greenleaf Saturday, April 20, 2019 posted by Otto Greenleaf

    John Prine was a mailman.

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